Monday, October 19, 2015
Terrorism and the Crisis of Sunni Islam - a brilliant article by Soumaya Ghannoushi
"Sunni Islam is in turmoil. Over the last two decades, it has been in the grip of ferment and fragmentation unprecedented in its long history," writes Soumaya Ghannoushi. She is a British Tunisian writer and expert in Middle East politics. Her latest article - Terrorism and the Crisis of Sunni Islam - has recently appeared in the Huffington Post. It is a brilliant, thought-provoking article.
Explaining the problem with Sunni Islam, she writes, "Sunni Islam has undergone a brutal change over the last two centuries. The process of modernization in the Muslim world has been associated with the growing role of the state and its bureaucracy as the chief, then eventually, sole actor and controller of the fates of Muslim societies. This phenomenon coincided with the fragmentation of the authority of scholars and the erosion of traditional learning institutions, which had been responsible for furnishing Muslim societies with meaning, values and symbols and maintaining their general equilibrium. This generated a vacuum filled with confusion and chaos, as amateurs and impostors came to intrude into the sphere hitherto occupied by qualified jurists and scholars.
The fates of Sunni religious establishments ranged between total obliteration, as was the case in Turkey, Tunisia, Iraq, and Syria, and marginalisation and annexation as happened in Egypt, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Egypt's al-Azhar turned into an arm of the state's, used by successive rulers to bestow legitimacy on their power and political edicts. Tunisia's al-Zaytouna, established in 737 AD, was closed down in the 1960s, then turned into a mere marginal branch of the post-independence Tunisian university.
Amidst the vacuum, disorder, and erosion of the religious educational system, many intruders were able to penetrate into the deserted territory and claim the authority of pronouncing in the name of Islam and acting as the guardians of its adherents. Ben Laden was an engineer while al-Zawahiri was doctor, both educated and trained in modern/ post-colonial establishments."
Ghnnoushi says, "Indeed, contrary to the dominant narrative that associates terrorism with religious education, it is rare to find a terrorist who had received solid instruction in a Sunni religious educational institution, even those that have lost their lustre. In fact, it is graduates from those schools and universities that are acting as powerful antidotes to extremist groups and the version of Islam they espouse."
Where to start from? She explains, "The challenge for Muslims today is to restore and revive Sunni Islam's enormous religious and scholarly heritage within a modern context, thus creating an amalgam of the profound and rich Islamic sciences and modern methods and disciplines.
In order to absorb the great tensions seething deep within Sunni Islam's guts and recover its equilibrium it is crucial to redeem the status and function of the traditional scholar not as the sole player on the arena or as the conscience of Sunni Islam, but as an intellectual authority of great moral influence and presence across Muslim society. The key to this restorative process lies in the revival of the old educational Sunni establishments, taking into account the spirit of modernity and demands of the times, while preserving their autonomy and independence from the powers that be, thus imparting moral authority to their views and interpretations in the eyes of Muslims around the world.
Only then can we resurrect the traditions of openness and dialogue that had characterized those institutions and safeguard the Muslim body from the extreme tendencies of violent terrorist groups."
I agree with her analysis. Please, consider reading the original by clicking here.
Here is another brilliant article unmasking western hypocritical experts on the Middle East.
You can also view her articles in her website.